“We couldn’t take our eyes off him, he’s so handsome,” gushed young Nidhi Bang.
Ms. Bang was part of a gathering of over 1,100 students from city colleges who attended a session addressed by Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi at Bhaidas Hall on Friday morning.
In the city to promote a Youth Congress membership drive, he impressed the students no end. “The main idea of his visit was to educate youth and bring them into the political mainstream, especially since most of us don’t have a political lineage,” said Gauri Nayak.
Management studies student Dhawal Kantawala said he liked the way Mr. Gandhi presented himself as “one among us.”
“He is like one of us; we asked him so many questions on the present political scenario and he was keen on infusing new blood.”
Mr. Gandhi’s 30-minute talk was followed by a 20-minute question-and-answer session. He also spoke about an inclusive India and said he was Indian first, a point which impressed Sejash, another MBA student.
The only worry for the students was whether the new things Mr. Gandhi was promising and proposing would ever be implemented. Only six or eight students raised their hands when he asked how many among the assembled students had a political background. And of these, only one knew how to enter politics.
Said Mr. Kantawala: The debate was so informal that one student asked Mr. Gandhi, “Why the hell are you here?” The young leader replied that he was irritated with the current political system and wanted to change it.
“He started the session confident of having fun and later told the students that in the end, ‘We are Indians and India is one’.” The girls liked his informality. “He asked us to call him Rahul. We could connect so easily with him,” added Ms. Bang, who was smitten enough to join the Youth Congress.
On a critical note, Prabhdeep Singh said: “The whole meeting was a marketing gimmick. However, as a person Rahul is genuine and can change the face of this country with more youth. All of us like him, as a person, and maybe in 5-10 years he’s the man to lead this country.” Mr. Singh plans to join the Youth Congress.
“Even though everyone went back feeling good, he [Rahul] could not motivate us to join politics,” another student said.
Mr. Gandhi told the students that there were two kinds of politicians — some sought to divide and rule, while parties like the Congress believed that India had to be united.
Without mentioning any name, Mr. Gandhi said two or three people were trying to divide the country communally and region-wise, but stressed that the Congress was a secular party.
“I think he was being politically correct,” another student said.
The young politician’s informal approach and frankness even impressed some staunch Bharatiya Janata Party supporters among his audience. Some students said they wished he had spent more time with them.